The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist in Residence

Bethany Lutheran Worship on
Ustream


NT Greek Lessons - Thursdays, 7 PM.

Saved worship files and Greek lessons are at the live worship link.

email: greg.jackson.edlp@gmail.com,
which works as gregjacksonedlp@gmail.com too.

Luther's Sermons, Lenker Series
Book of Concord Selections
Bente's Historical Introductions,
and Martin Chemnitz Press Books

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve Service, 9 PM Central Standard Time, December 24th


The Nativity by Norma Boeckler



Christmas Readings and Hymns
Bethany Lutheran Church
Christmas Eve Service, 9 PM Central Time.
Springdale, Arkansas
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson


Hymn 77:1-6                        All My Heart This Night Rejoices

The First Gospel
Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

KJV Isaiah 40:1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. 2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins. 3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: 5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. 6 The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: 7 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. 8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. 9 O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!

The Place of Jesus’ Birth
KJV Micah 5:2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

#102                                         O Come All Ye Faithful

KJV Isaiah 9:2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

Virgin Birth
KJV Isaiah 7:10 Moreover the LORD spake again unto Ahaz, saying, 11 Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. 12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD. 13 And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. 15 Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. 16 For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.

Incarnation
KJV Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

#109                                   While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks

KJV Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. 20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. 24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.


Sermon –  



Luke’s Account
KJV Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

The Heavens Shaken by Angels

KJV Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.  2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 

Luther:
1. It is written in Haggai 2:6-7, that God says: “I will shake the heavens; and the precious things of all nations shall come.” This is fulfilled today, for the heavens were shaken, that is, the angels in the heavens sang praises to God. And the earth was shaken, that is, the people on the earth were agitated; one journeying to this city, another to that throughout the whole land, as the Gospel tells us. It was not a violent, bloody uprising, but rather a peaceable one awakened by God who is the God of peace.

As Luther wisely observes, the peculiar nature of the birth of Jesus came about because the family was submissive to Roman rule. The long journey, all uphill to Bethlehem came about because of the census ordered for taxing. And we can see from Luke's account that Judea was simply a part of Syria, the larger Roman province.

Luke has been proven precise in his historical trivia, doubtless the best test of accuracy. Mainstream accounts repeat common facts, which are often wrong, but the careful writer gets the facts right, down to the smallest details. Even those details that were never known before have been dug up in archeological digs, such as Luke's peculiar use of "ethnarch" as a title. 

Noting that Quirinius was governor and this was the first census are details - part of locating the precise time of Jesus' birth. They also show Jesus would not overthrow earthly government, as some expected of the Messiah, but would rule an everlasting and growing Kingdom of God. And yet, the heavens would be shaken, because the angels would announce this birth in a way fitting for the divine role of the Messiah, to shepherds watching their flocks by night.

3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

This gathering of people to their own cities fulfilled one very dramatic prophesy. Little Bethlehem would be the birthplace of the Messiah because of the census ordered centuries later. And this birth would advance the claim that Jesus was from the House of David. Moreover, there are additional details. What was David famous for as a child? 

Answer - He was a shepherd.

And in the dramatic 40th chapter of Isaiah, what is said about the Messiah?

10 Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.
11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.
So there is a powerful connection between Jesus and David, not only as kings, but also as shepherds.

Although the family had to struggle uphill to be in Bethlehem for the census, no preparations were made for them when Jesus was to be born. So here is the paradox we find in the Christian Faith. Although God takes care of His own, He also lets them suffer indignities and privation to glorify His Name. The manger scene should remind us that "manger" is a word we never use except at Christmas - it was really a feed trough.

This is true of all the early followers true, so God teaches us that His own are not spared, least of all His Son. Those who teach a Christianity of success, popularity, and wealth are simply drawing from pagan religion where the gods serve whatever their followers order up. This pagan idea is quite prominent in Asian religion and crossed-over via Norman Vincent Peale's plagiarism and David Cho's amalgamation of Pentecostalism with polytheism.

When I taught world religion for several years, I was reminded of how strange and self-centered these religions can be, how divorced from human history they are. In contrast, the Christian faith is rooted in history and the Bible's facts (aka trivia) are easily backed up by archeological finds. We have the Nativity from the follower Luke who was with Mary and the Apostles and traveled with Paul. And John's Gospel is from the Apostle John, the disciple Jesus loved.

In modern journalism, one famous writer for the New York Times had stringers write up local stories. He flew into those local airports so he could claim the article and file it  under his byline as a local story, as if he did the legwork and writing there. He admitted that himself. That is how many world religion biographies read, although they are worse, 200 years later at best.

So this narrative is completely rooted in history but revealed by the Holy Spirit. The Virgin Birth is a mystery, that is, a truth revealed only by the Holy Spirit. Logic, reason, and facts do not prove the Virgin Birth. The Bible reveals it and supports it with many references for believers. For instance, the Isaiah 7:14 reference is not only to the Virgin Birth but also to the Incarnation - His Name being God With Us, Immanuel. This is strengthened by Isaiah 9 - the Mighty God. But why the reference to Father? Jesus said in John - I and the Father, We are One. That one statement explains the apparent problem, but it is an explanation for believers, not for those who mock and belittle the Scriptural record.

If someone wants to attack the Word of God, the statements will grow increasingly strident and foolish. And yet nothing claimed by man can change the truth of the Scriptures.

As Luther says in his sermon, this story is lowly and yet we see how greatly God esteems these events. For that reason, Christmas is central in the church year and in our culture. Recalling the story and hearing it retold by children - in many cases - reminds us of how strange and thrilling it all was. The Western calendar became one where we measure before and after the Year of Our Lord, Anno Domini, AD.

4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

Greek is like English, except more precise. We can say "go up" when it means North. But the Greek word means "go to a higher elevation." And it was a very long, climbing journey for Joseph and Mary. There is no mention of a beast of burden for Mary or the fruit trees bowing down to feed her.

Joseph and Mary were married, but that tradition was different from ours. A couple did not live together until later, a separate ceremony, so they had a dual burden, explained in Matthew. In faith, they undertook the journey, with Mary ready to deliver. We can only imagine how difficult and anxiety-provoking that was.

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 

7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

This account sound poetic to me, and no doubt it was repeated in early days, just as it is today, in those concise, detail-filled phrases. Mary was ready to deliver while they were there in Bethlehem, and this is stated, with the final qualification - laid in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

This is the great paradox revealed in this Christmas story. The wicked were living in luxury in Bethlehem, but the Lord of Creation was being born in a stable area behind the inn, where their own beasts were probably lodged.

Luther:
8. The Evangelist shows how, when they arrived at Bethlehem, they were the most insignificant and despised, so that they had to make way for others until they were obliged to take refuge in a stable, to share with the cattle, lodging, table, bed chamber and bed, while many a wicked man sat at the head in the hotels and was honored as lord. No one noticed or was conscious of what God was doing in that stable. He lets the large houses and costly apartments remain empty, lets their inhabitants eat, drink and be merry; but this comfort and treasure are hidden from them. O what a dark night this was for Bethlehem, that was not conscious of that glorious light!

See how God shows that he utterly disregards what the world is, has or desires; and furthermore, that the world shows how little it knows or notices what God is, has and does.

9. See, this is the first picture with which Christ puts the world to shame and exposes all it does and knows. It shows that the world’s greatest wisdom is foolishness, her best actions are wrong and her greatest treasures are misfortunes. What had Bethlehem when it did not have Christ? What have they now who at that time had enough? What do Joseph and Mary lack now, although at that time they had no room to sleep comfortably?


So the materialists  in their churches worry about measuring up to the standards of the world, while God blesses what is meek and lowly, like His Son. 

Jesus' birth reminds me of a story from the missionary work of Lutherans in the Midwest, when housing was rudimentary and no medical help was available. The pastor's wife went to the woman in labor and helped her. Nothing was in the house to help her out except cold water and a hard bit of soap. She did her best for the young mother. Mary had only Joseph for help. 

Luther:
11. But the birth itself is still more pitiful. There was no one to take pity on this young wife who was for the first time to give birth to a child; no one to take to heart her condition that she, a stranger, did not have the least thing a mother needs in a birth-night. There she is without any preparation, without either light or fire, alone in the darkness, without any one offering her service as is customary for women to do at such times. Every thing is in commotion in the inn, there is a swarming of guests from all parts of the country, no one thinks of this poor woman. It is also possible that she did not expect the event so soon, else she would probably have remained at Nazareth.

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

Just as the great and wise were bypassed, so were the humble shepherds exalted as worthy to hear the great angelic announcement, with the heavens shaken.

The yarn-specialists want us to believe that Jesus was not born at the time we celebrate, and they know exactly why. Anyone with a little dose of history knows that a culture is never defined by a certain record, a specific rule or notion. That would mean 100% of all shepherds did their work exactly as the authors claim, all the authors feeding from the same source. The pagans and the cults hate Christmas so they want to make it look foolish, wrong, anti-Christian (anti-cult, truthfully), and a method to keep people away from pagan orgies and feasts.

Cleveland Browns Football Fan. The church treasurer never missed a service, except one Sunday. It was sleeting so hard that I fell twice walking next door to the church. Hardly anyone came because it was dangerous driving. The treasurer was not there - no surprise. He lived far away. Next Sunday his wife let slip how tough it was for Mike and his son to watch the Browns play outdoors in the miserable sleet. So - does anyone think that "inventing Christmas in December" would keep people from the pagan feasts if they were so inclined? Yet the yarn-spinners want us to believe the shepherds only watched their sheep at night in the fields during lambing season in the spring. Let's put that notion to rest. There is no reason to imagine that and no cause to prove something about the birth of Jesus.

We also have the experts on the Wise Men. When did they arrive exactly? First of all, there was no Star of Bethlehem for a long time. The astronomer who wrote about it was dismissed as a "mystic," which means "a believer," someone who cannot be trusted. The scientists finally admitted that there are several candidates for the Star and historical records from the Chinese to prove it. Oh - nevermind. When did they visit and where exactly? Those are journalistic questions and the New Testament is not a newspaper - no, it is far more reliable.

All these stories start from the Age of Rationalism and are given new energy by the cults and the atheists of today. They say too that John never mentions the Virgin Birth. Neither does Paul. But both claims are refuted by the language of John and Paul, whose many statements teach the Incarnation, the Two Natures, and necessarily assume the general knowledge of the Virgin Birth.

That is like saying, "Springfield is not the capital of Illinois." Why did you say that? "Well, you never mentioned it in your entire essay, so it could not be the capital." But I mentioned the governor's mansion there, the state employees, and the building where the legislators meet. "No, I don't see that at all. You were silent on the city of Springfield being the state capital."

A child-like faith shows the entire Bible to be one consistent truth.

The angels were sent by God to reveal this great earth-shaking and heaven-rending event. Why not wake up the leaders, the rich, the Jewish teachers of the Temple? God exalted the lowly on purpose, to begin the work of Evangelism where it would do the most good, among the ordinary workers of the day.  Today we have so many wise and wonderful pundits who want to tell us what the truth is, but they do not know. They only want to stay in power, in luxury, in the money. Those with a child-like faith understand, even if they do not have prestige degrees and brass plaques honoring them.

The great irony is - the miracle sign of the Messiah - revealed by the angels - is a baby in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. The humble circumstances are proof by God of His revelation - This is My Son, Your Savior, seemingly alone yet hailed by God's own angels while the great ones slept off their wine and dreamt of future glory.

Luther:

38. In the third place, it is shown by the light that shined around the shepherds, which teaches that here there must be an entirely different light than that of human reason. Moreover, when St. Luke says, Gloria Dei, the glory of God, shone around them, he calls that light a brightness, or the glory of God. Why does he say that? In order to call attention to the mystery and reveal the character of the Gospel. For while the Gospel is a heavenly light that teaches nothing more than Christ, in whom God’s grace is given to us and all human merit is entirely cast aside, it exalts only the glory of God, so that henceforth no one may be able to boast of his own power; but must give God the glory, that it is of his love and goodness alone that we are saved through Christ.

See, the divine honor, the divine glory, is the light in the Gospel, which shines around us from heaven through the apostles and their followers who preach the Gospel. The angel here was in the place of all the preachers of the Gospel, and the shepherds in the place of all the hearers, as we shall see. For this reason the Gospel can tolerate no other teaching besides its own; for the teaching of men is earthly light and human glory; it exalt the honor and praise of men, and makes souls to glory in their own works; while the Gospel glories in Christ, in God’s grace and goodness, and teaches us to boast of and confide in Christ.



#646                                                   Silent Night

Heavenly Host
Luke 2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

The Prayers and Benediction


#87                                                  Joy to the World